Honda's Starting to Sound a Lot Like Toyota
Of all the automakers populating this vast land, none display quite same the level of guarded optimism for the passenger car’s future as Toyota. Two years ago, if you recall, it boldly declared that its new Camry might save the midsize sedan segment. Well, there’s now a new entry in the rose-colored glasses race.
Honda feels that public distrust in the ability of a four-door sedan to carry occupants to their intended destination has pretty much bottomed out.
Speaking to Bloomberg, Henio Arcangeli, senior vice president of automotive operations for Honda Motor Co.’s U.S. unit, said he’s confident the segment’s rapid slump is near an end.
“We think we’re getting close to the limit in terms of the percentage mix of light trucks versus cars, which is very close to that 70-30 mix,” he said. “At least in the near term, that’s probably the limit.”
The industry’s 2018 sales results showed consumers heading to trucks, crossovers, and SUVs in ever greater numbers, with the split being 31 percent cars, 69 percent light trucks. December’s results showed an even more lopsided result, with cars falling to 28 percent of the market.
Still, despite an OEM exodus from the car market that started with Fiat Chrysler and more recently ensnared Ford and General Motors, one projection suggests a stabilization is on our doorstep. LMC Automotive forecasts an evening out in the car slump after about 2021, with the car segment still topping pickup trucks in terms of volume as far in the future as 2025. IHS Markit’s projections clash with Honda’s optimism, however, as the firm anticipates a light truck take rate of 75 percent by 2023.
Last year, sales of Honda cars sank 9 percent, with Acura’s car volume declining by 9.5 percent. Meanwhile, light truck sales rose 3.6 percent at the big H and 8.4 percent at Acura.
Last month’s sales tally shows no signs of a change of heart among the buying public, with sales of Honda cars falling 1 percent in January, year over year. Acura cars sank 11.7 percent.
One thing Honda has going for it is a still-popular — and very diverse — Civic line. Last year saw the automaker add a new Insight premium hybrid sedan to its stable, joining the Clarity line in the company’s green wing and further bolstering its car selection. It remains to be seen whether future domestic car buyers, stymied in their bid for a new Cruze or Focus, will instead head to a Japanese brand for the closest alternative.
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